Holiday traditions; do you have any? These can be many and varied, ranging from activities you do with people (e.g., holding a pre-Christmas party) to things you eat and drink (e.g., preparing that alcohol-laced dessert that no one wants to try first). You can find many more examples here. So, why is a clinical psychologist talking about Christmas traditions?
Well first, it is one of several topics suggested by Julie Hanks. She has challenged therapists to write on one of these. Second, I wanted to pick the topic that I wanted to write about least (for the festive challenge of it). Third, I have talked to many people who find Christmas a very difficult and stressful time. For these people, planning to incorporate something positive and meaningful may be helpful in reducing these difficulties.
How do I bring tradition in at Christmas? I have done some thinking about this, and here are my own suggestions. I am sure there are many other great ideas, so feel free to add them in the comments section below.
Use feel-good events from previous years
If you are stuck for ideas, think about what things, people, or events you have enjoyed over the years. This is a great place to start because you are using something with a track record of success. If your memory is not too sharp, ask family and friends to recall positive Christmas memories shared with you (a 'tradition brain-storming' session if you like).
Get like-minded people involved
You can lead a horse to the eggnog-flavoured water, but you can't get he/she to drink it. Traditions will be more sustainable when you are sharing them with like-minded people. There is no point trying to force traditions on people who are just not into it. If those closet to you are non-starters (e.g., immediate family), you can always look to form traditions with important people in your wider social network (or come up with a tradition that does not rely on direct support from others). Also, tell people what you are trying to do and why; shared understanding can increase shared efforts/committment.
To avoid disappointment, it may be a good idea to have modest targets initially. We don't want a situation where a fledgling tradition falls flat on its face and you blame yourself for the flop. Success breeds success and you can build a tradition over the years to something more substantial. While traditions are generally associated with consistency and repetition, there is no reason why a tradition can't grow and develop over time.
Think about what's important to you
Meaningful traditions are more likely to have a long life-expectancy and maximise positive benefits (for example, pick activities that are in-line with your personal values, such as giving to others).
Imagine the future
If you look back at Christmas in 20 years time, what do you want this time to have been about? This can help you keep focused on traditions most important to you and others.
Think about the rough spots
If there are specific times around Christmas that are difficult for you, plan ahead with a tradition that will pick you up. For example, if you dread going back to work after time off, plan a short weekend get-away to a favourite spot.
Hope you find these ideas useful. Always welcome your feedback. I hope you have a great Christmas period this year.